- Pickle juice has been shown to help prevent muscle cramps in athletes.
- The vinegar in pickle juice may help reduce heartburn and stabilize blood sugar.
- Pickle juice is loaded with sodium, so it’s important not to drink too much of it at once.
Pickles have long been a favorite side piece at backyard barbecues, but these days pickle juice has been thrust onto center stage.
Pickle juice is available on its own as sports drinks, slushies, alcoholic beverages, and more, and people have been flocking to it for reported health benefits.
“Athletes may use pickle juice in the belief that it will help improve performance,” says Matthew Black, RD, a dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “While others may consume pickle juice under the belief that it will [help] muscle cramps and hangovers.”
Are any of these health benefits true? Should you be chugging pickle juice every day? Here’s what you need to know about the benefits and drawbacks of this salty green liquid.
Pickle nutrition facts
In general, pickles and pickle juice contain the electrolyte sodium and some recipes may also include added antioxidants like vitamin C and E, says Amy Shapiro, RD, the founder of Real Nutrition.
These important nutrients come from both the cucumbers (and other herbs and veggies) that manufacturers use to make pickles and also from the brine — which typically includes a mix of vinegar, salt, and seasoning — that does the pickling.
It’s very rare for commercially-produced cucumbers to be fermented, but if you buy (or make) fermented pickles, they can also contain probiotics, “good bacteria” that support a healthy gut.
Here’s what the nutritional facts for pickle juice look like (although they will vary based on recipe and manufacturing process).
Here are six ways that probiotics and other nutrients in pickle juice may benefit your health.
1. Benefits gut health
Your gut is home to about a trillion bacteria, known as your gut microbiome. Keeping these good bacteria thriving can reduce your risk for allergies, arthritis, and a host of other conditions.
One way to keep your gut microbes happy and healthy is by consuming probiotics, or good bacteria, like those found in fermented pickle juice.
A small 2021 study found that people who ate a diet high in fermented foods had a more diverse gut microbiome and a healthier immune system.
To that end, “eating pickles is a great way to increase your microbiome population,” Shapiro says.
To tell if your pickle juice contains probiotics look for the words “probiotic” or “fermented” on the label, Black says.
Just know that some companies will add probiotics in after the juice is already made instead of letting them grow naturally during fermentation. These products generally have fewer probiotic strains and likely aren’t as beneficial, Black says.
Quick tip: If vinegar is listed as one of the primary ingredients, just after cucumbers and water, your pickle juice is not fermented and won’t have probiotic benefits. Also, in order to benefit your gut, fermented products shouldn’t be pasteurized, a process that kills all bacteria, good and bad.
2. Reduces muscle cramps
Pickle juice has been shown to help prevent muscle cramps in athletes when it’s consumed during or after a workout.
Shapiro recommends taking a 1-ounce shot of pickle juice after intense workouts to prevent cramping. If you don’t workout regularly, pickle juice might still help with muscle cramps, but there’s no research on non-athletes.
3. May promote weight loss, but it’s not recommended
The vinegar in many pickle juices may help with weight loss as some research has shown that vinegar can reduce appetite, Black says.
However, there are three big issues to be aware of with this:
- Vinegar reduces appetite by making people feel nauseous, so it’s generally not well tolerated.
- In addition, most of the research on vinegar and weight loss involves apple cider vinegar, which isn’t typically used in pickle juice.
- Lastly, most studies on weight loss and vinegar involve drinking vinegar before each meal. Consuming that much pickle juice would result in too much sodium intake, so this isn’t a recommended weight loss strategy, Black says.
4. Reduces heartburn
Heartburn can be triggered by acidic foods, which is why people with heartburn are told to avoid them. Despite that, some people report that pickle juice, which is very acidic, helps relieve their symptoms, Shapiro says. For others, it makes symptoms worse.
“This seems to be subjective,” she says. “There is no research done on pickle juice for heartburn.”
If you want to give it a try, take a one-ounce shot of pickle juice when you’re experiencing symptoms. If the symptoms worsen, try some other remedies for heartburn like consuming ginger or liquid aloe vera.
5. Regulates blood sugar
Research has found that vinegar can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels, particularly when it’s taken with meals involving complex carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables. Vinegar may also help people with type two diabetes regulate blood sugar.
“Vinegar helps to improve insulin response and therefore helps manage blood sugar after meals,” says Shapiro.
Although there are no studies on pickle juice specifically, pickle juice that contains lots of vinegar (rather than fermented pickle juice), likely has the same effect, she says.
Risks of drinking too much
The biggest risk of drinking pickle juice is consuming too much sodium.
The average adult should not consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, but most Americans consume more than that. Taking in too much sodium can increase blood pressure, raising your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Because of that, most people shouldn’t regularly consume pickle juice, Black says. This includes:
- People on low-sodium diets, often used to treat kidney disease, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
- People ages 14 and under have a lower recommended daily sodium limit of no more than 1800 mgs per day (dropping to 1500 mg for kids under 9, and 1200 mg for kids under 4) should therefore be particularly careful about consuming pickle juice.
Homemade pickle juice recipe
Eating a whole cucumber — or pickle — will give you more fiber and less sodium than drinking the juice straight. But if you’re strictly interested in pickle juice then making vinegar-based pickle juice at home is simple:
- Step 1: Combine a cup of boiling water, 1/2 cup of vinegar, and two tablespoons of salt.
- Step 2: Add additional spices and flavorings to taste. Sugar, dill, mustard and pepper are all popular choices.
- Step 3: The juice can be used immediately, but most people prefer to allow the juice to cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate it before drinking.
You can also make fermented cucumbers at home which is a healthier option, Black says.
Although pickle juice is trendy, there’s little evidence to support some of its purported health benefits, says Black.
Pickle juice may help with muscle cramps or stabilizing blood sugar. Fermented pickle juice can help support a healthy gut microbiome. But because pickle juice contains so much salt, it’s not a healthy food.
“These products are high in sodium, so use sparingly,” Black says. “The benefits may not outweigh the risk of consuming high amounts of sodium.”